– An interesting New York Times story about rehabilitating Tolstoy caught my eye. In her diaries, Sofia Tolstoy expresses a great deal of concern about how she’ll be judged by historians. But it never occurs to her that her husband could himself be remembered in a mixed light.
– A piece attempting a humorous take on yoga from NPR’s Sandip Roy irked me. One commenter summed up the problem nicely: “A man who identifies as belonging to a particular ethnicity, paradoxically ignorant of a particular tradition of said ethnicity, is by virtue of said identity assigned to write an article communicating nothing so much as said ignorance.” Right.
– In this week’s New Yorker, a very enjoyable review of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series puzzles over its popularity. “The jokes aren’t funny. The dialogue could not be worse. The phrasing and the vocabulary are consistently banal,” Joan Acocella writes.
– The ever-sharp Elif Batuman reflects on interpreting entrails and suggests prognostications help us find out who we are in this great little essay.
– Earlier this week, my former PW editor Marc Schultz wrote about a new edition of Huckleberry Finn that replaces “slave” for the n-word. The piece set off a cascade of debate on censoring Mark Twain (The Takeaway invited Morehouse’s David Wall Rice to weigh in; he made a strong case against the NewSouth edition). But one thing that seems to have gotten lost in the discussion is that editor Alan Gribben’s decision to drop the n-word wasn’t part of any agenda — it grew out of countless conversations with readers and educators across Alabama who told him they were staying away from Huck Finn because of the n-word. “For a single word to form a barrier, it seems such an unnecessary state of affairs,” Gribben told PW. So why not make an alternative edition available?
– Ben Yagoda takes on The Elements of Clunk. Someone should publish a set of stylebooks on the essential conventions of writing for broadcast, print, the ‘net, email, G-chat, Facebook walls and text message. And then make them into an iPhone app so I can put them all in my pocket.
– Over at The Awl, Heather Havrilesky beautifully sums up a modern malaise (which I, for one, suffer from): Personal Branding Disorders. “Do you want to be a part of the next wave of rich personal self-promotion, or do you want your child to grow up not knowing what really good sushi tastes like?” she asks. Okay, okay. I give up on the sushi.
Happy New Year!
photo by Jay: my morning coffee (back in California)